The Calgary Flames were superb in the opening 20 minutes of Tuesday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Unfortunately, the Penguins were better than them for the remaining 40 minutes. The Flames couldn’t match Pittsburgh’s desperation and hustle in the final two periods en route to a 4-1 loss at the Saddledome.

The Rundown

On Saturday, the Flames played what several players called their best first period of the season. Against the Penguins, the Flames raised the bar and really imposed their will on the opposition.

They got rewarded late in the period, on their 16th shot. Johnny Gaudreau entered the zone and made a drop-pass to Mikael Backlund. Backlund passed to Tobias Rieder, who passed back across to Gaudreau for a redirect at the far post that beat Tristan Jarry to give the home side a 1-0 edge.

Shots were 17-6 Flames and scoring chances 13-2 Flames in the first period.

The Flames were less good in the second period, while the Penguins seemingly woke up from their early nap. The Penguins tied the game midway through the period just after a Flames penalty expired. After some nice passing around the perimeter, John Marino uncorked a shot from the top of the circles that beat Cam Talbot top corner blocker side to tie the game at 1-1.

Just 1:22 later, the Penguins grabbed the lead. The Flames got hemmed into their own zone for a bit and in all the confusion, Bryan Rust took advantage and hucked a shot on net. Talbot got most of it, but it squeaked through his padding and into the net to make it 2-1 for the visitors.

The Flames pressed later in the period, but their efforts could be summed up in a two-on-zero rush that Dillon Dube and Milan Lucic got: Lucic shot the puck right into Jarry’s pads from in-close to negate the opportunity. Shots were 16-9 Penguins and scoring chances 10-7 Penguins in the middle frame.

The Flames pressed in the third period, but the Penguins did a pretty solid job of clogging up the middle of the ice and running down the clock. Evgeni Malkin scored an empty-netter – his 400th goal of his career – to ice this one at 3-1 for the Penguins. Kris Letang also got an empty-netter to make it 4-1, but that was less monumental.

Shots were 11-8 Penguins and scoring chances 9-3 Flames in the third period.

Why the Flames Lost

The Flames had a fantastic first period. Frame that period, put it up above your fireplace as what this group is capable of doing if they’re fully buying in. But man, they could not build upon that period. The Penguins made adjustments, won a lot of puck battles and the Flames couldn’t counter. The result was a loss for the home side.

Red Warrior

Gaudreau had the lone goal for the Flames, but he was also noticeable all game. He led the team in shots and was responsible for generating a ton of good scoring chances for his group.

The Turning Point

In a situation that sounds a lot like the Carolina game, the Flames gave up a pair of goals in an 82 second span and just couldn’t claw their way back into this one.

The Numbers

Data via Natural Stat Trick. Percentage stats are 5v5.

Frolik 71.4 40.0 0.425
Lucic 68.0 75.0 0.665
Bennett 66.7 40.0 0.450
Rieder 63.6 40.0 1.330
Ryan 62.5 75.0 0.285
Hanifin 61.9 76.9 0.800
Monahan 61.8 66.7 0.645
Hamonic 60.0 90.0 0.625
Giordano 59.4 25.0 0.525
Dube 57.1 75.0 0.075
Backlund 56.4 63.6 0.835
Andersson 56.4 55.6 0.325
Gaudreau 56.3 66.7 1.525
Brodie 53.3 27.3 -0.100
Kylington 48.5 80.0 -0.125
Tkachuk 45.5 33.3 0.100
Mangiapane 42.9 20.0 0.000
Lindholm 41.4 20.0 -0.315
Talbot 1.400

This and That

Sam Bennett played his first game since Nov. 16.

Up Next

The Flames (18-14-4) practice tomorrow. They’re back in action for their final home game prior to the holiday break when they welcome the Montreal Canadiens to town on Thursday night.

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